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Elections without Politics – the conjuncture in Kosovo

Note of the LeftEast editors: this article was published in cooperation with the Serbo-Croatian web-portal Bilten.Org – original source.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Republic of Kosovo never ceases to be the country of interesting developments. By interesting developments I mean those kinds of events which put the people in a state of perplexity and uneasiness. This was also the case with the latest elections held in June 8th. The results came as a surprise to the vast majority of the people of this country. Although the Democratic Party of Kosovo, which has been the ruling party in Kosovo since January 2008, got re-elected with 30.71%, the surprising element is the fact that Hashim Thaçi could win the majority of votes. Thaçi is the symptom of the existing political and ideological system in Kosovo. He is the name of the existing ideological-political currents in the country, which is characterised by the highest unemployment rate in Europe (with over 48%), one of the highest rates of corruption[1] in the region, the most isolated country in Europe,[2] and on top of it, is subjected to two correlated neo-imperial forces, the EU[3] and the Republic of Serbia. Taking this into account, Thaçi’s victory is indeed very surprising given the fact that he’s not only the embodiment of this situation, but this situation is mostly and predominantly a result of his government. governance?

But, should we be really surprised? Should we attribute his victory to the people’s immaturity, as some politicians from the opposition “front” argue, or should we rather look into the political and ideological positioning of the political scene in Kosovo in order to understand Thaçi’s victory?

Apart from being the name of the depressing predicament of Kosovo, his victory signifies the political poverty in this country. The political poverty of the Kosovo political scene is structured in such a way that it has over 30 political parties, which in the last instance do not differ from one another on clear ideological positions. For instance, they are all united in the pro-EU/NATO policies, on the organisation of society based on private property, etc. It is in this sense that his electoral victory shouldn’t be too much of a surprise for the people of Kosovo: there is no real alternative in this country.

It is no wonder that the turn out in these elections was one of the lowest in the post-war period, with 41% only voting. By not voting, the people have spoken. The question is, what did they say?

Yet another mandate of Thaçi government will be (almost) fatal for the future of this country. The existing trend has to be stopped, especially the privatisation of everything existing and (unconditional) negotiations with Serbia. Even more so when despite the fact that Thaçi won the elections, he doesn’t have the majority to form the government. The opposition united and created a post-electoral block, which grants them the majority of the seats in the new Parliament of Kosovo. In this sense, the new government will be created by the three opposition parties, with the support of Vetëvendosje Movement, a “left”-nationalist party, which decided to remain out of the coalition. Yet, the situation remains open: either we’ll have a new coalition government created by the opposition parties (and minorities), or we will have extraordinary elections within 60 days. The constitution of the Republic of Kosovo is very ambiguous regarding the party/coalition which is given the mandate  to form the government. Obviously the EU and USA, the  architects of our constitution, didn’t predict such a situation might happen. Here one can see the limits of the neo-imperial fantasy. The political battle between the opposition block and Thaçi has begun and the perspective looks more blurred than the day the coalition was signed. The only instance that can give an end to these false struggles is the verdict by the Constitutional Court.

However, the next government, be it formed by Thaçi or the opposition, will be faced with almost impossible tasks, inherited from previous Thaçi governments. I shall address the most important ones, which in the final instance may have a regional effect. I will divide them into two sections, in the “givens” of the situation, and the “prognosis.”

1)   First and most important (for the time being): the partition of the North of Kosovo. After last year’s agreement in Brussels between the Republic of Kosovo and Republic of Serbia, it is almost inevitable. If the dialogue between Prishtina and Belgrade will continue (as it is expected) with the signing of yet another hazardous agreement on the issues regarding the North of Kosovo, then Kosovo will become also officially the second Bosnia. We will have our own Republika Srpska as a transitional phase towards the legal and definitive partition of the North of Kosovo. We should also remember that the eventual change of Kosovo borders would most likely affect at least Macedonia and Bosnia. The agreement of April 2012 was very successful in creating the basis for the defunctionalisation of the Republic of Kosovo. But, the continuation of dialogue between Prishtina and Belgrade in the existing format and platform will eventually result in the definitive restructuring of the borders at least between three existing countries. The next government of Kosovo should immediately stop the dialogue, revoke the signature from the agreement and begin the dialogue on a new basis and with new conditions.

2)   Kosovo has a very high rate of unemployment, with over 48% of the population, while round 18-20% live in extreme poverty (with less than 1 dollar per day). The economic agenda in this country  was set back in 2000 by the IMF and EU, is based on privatisation of everything existing, destroying the domestic production and agriculture,  and basing the Kosovo economy on services and trade.

Based on these facts, we can make the following prognoses.

1)   In the given political-economic conjuncture in Kosovo, demonstrations, protests, riots or other forms of social unrest are becoming a necessity. Not that riots and social unrest are by definition the way out, but they can become the conditions of the possibility for the new situation. In other words, the popular uprisings might open up the space for a new political intervention. Anger or disappointment (or even a bad standard of living) is not in itself a proper political category. The riots of March 2004 in Kosovo serve as a clear example of it. Furthermore, with a disorganised and completely marginal Left, the forces of reaction always-already hegemonize the popular upheavals. The new government, if it will be able to complete its four-year mandate, will have to deal with all sorts of popular dissatisfaction, which in my view will erupt in (violent) demonstrations and riots.

2)   The new government will also have to deal with one of the crucial problems in Kosovo: the problem of neo-imperial structures based in the country, which  up to a point, have a determinate role in the political and economic life of this country. While the NATO troops are slowly withdrawing from Kosovo[4], the presence of a few EU missions in the country remains highly problematic. Obviously, violence won’t be of any help in this domain, on the contrary, it would reinforce the presence, effectivity and interference of the neo-imperial administration in the country. With the EU structures, we have to carry out a pragmatic and patient dialogue, while at the same time strengthening the state apparatuses.

Taking all of this into account, the situation looks very desperate and hopeless for any of the Parties that will form the government. Further, this becomes even more depressing if we think of the weakness, or rather the inexistence of the Left. And by Left, I do not mean the Vetëvendosje! Movement type of Leftism ( its social democratic wing, with its determining nationalist position), but a true radical Left, which is not engaged in any image of itself being the victim of the Other, whose position acknowledges capitalism as the principal contradiction as such. In these elections, the Left has failed, both in articulating a clear position and in mobilising the popular masses against the existing political parties. In this regard, I believe that the most important thing is that the (so-called) Left (with nationalist values) will not have the right to act all mighty or even worse, from a higher moral and patronizing position, when the people will take the streets, nor when there is violence, because it will have helped to cause it by not providing the people with the common emblem. Simply put, national belonging proved not enough to be the common emblem. This will prove itself as popular protests against high unemployment cannot be directed or contained by any Party or movement that does not face the true source of the problem.

Nonetheless, we cannot simply regress into despair and argue that the situation is hopeless and we have failed. The primary task is to concentrate on both providing a clear and unambiguous position as well as on the mobilisation of the popular masses against the partition of the country and against the privatisation of existing state or public owned enterprises. Only a new position from the perspective of a Radical Left can get us out of the existing depressing predicament.

Agon Hamza is completing his PhD in philosophy, on Hegel and Althusser. He is a co-founder and a member of the international collective Dialectical Materialism Collective and serves as the editor-in-chief of the international philosophical journal Crisis and Critique.  His latest publication is a co-authored book with Slavoj Žižek, entitled From Myth to Symptom: The Case of Kosovo and Louis Althusser (2011) and Për Althusserin (2012).

[1] Although, it is be really important to analyse corruption as a non-political category.  I am by no means defending corruption as such, but placing corruption as the primary contradiction is already a lost battle. The anti-corruption battle doesn’t belong to the field of politics, but it is a matter of technocracy. A point further confirmed by a fact that the case against corruption does not divide the political field in any meaningful way. Who would be “against” corruption?

[2] With Kosovo passport, one can travel visa-free to only 7 countries in the world.

[3] One could oppose this statement, by arguing that I do not mention NATO presence in Kosovo, but since many years now NATO is no player whatsoever in any developments in the country. Furthermore, they do not have neither enough troops nor other capacities to “protect” Kosovo from either further invasion, nor restore order inside the country in the case of demonstrations, riots, etc.

[4] Here we should announce the Good News for the Left: the Americans are already planning on closing their military bases in the Republic of Kosovo.